The Saturday night concert at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center was about a lot of things: a full, happy house and a band firing beyond all cylinders; palpable loss and cautious but determined optimism; songs for every fan and a few from the family jewels. But best of all, it was about E Street bassist Gary Tallent’s birthday.

Garry danced! With a fan. She patiently held a sign asking, “Garry Will You Dance With Me?” during “Dancing in the Dark,” throughout Bruce’s turn with two ladies and starring Mrs. Joe Grushecky. Finally Garry sidles over, Bruce realizes what’s going on, and she’s on the stage in his arms while Bruce intones, “This is very unusual, I’ve never actually seen Garry move!”

Musical highlights were plentiful, but none higher than the sign-requested “Pretty Flamingo,” a Manfred Mann cover which visibly transported Bruce back to his romantic youth. With that faraway look and memory-laden smile, he began, “In every town, on every block in this wonderful land of ours, there are beautiful women….”

Other highlights: a passionate “Streets of Fire” audible early in the set turned the crowd up a notch; a big and hot “Spirit in the Night” had Preacher Springsteen in the house and the congregation responding “Yeah, yeah!” on command. Roy’s virtuoso performance on “Racing in the Streets” was perfection. “Talk to Me” is so very welcome — how is it this song stayed buried for so long?

As widely expected, local hero Joe Grushecky guested along with his son Johnny. Their familiarity and comfort with the band was evident and produced a loose and fun “Glory Days,” complete with center-stage group booty shake. The Grusheckys stayed for an incendiary “Light of Day,” with Bruce leading the crowd in the na na na chorus from “Land of 1000 Dances.”

After three hours and 10 minutes, it is clear that this man and this band have gelled and have set a new standard for their peers. Best of all, they do it live, and they do repeatedly, and it’s never the same. But we shouldn’t be surprised — as Bruce explained it to a young fan down front: “You’re sixteen? I’m eighteen… in my mind.”

- Bethaney Dale, backstreets.com